The phony excuse of national security

China Plus Published: 2019-06-11 22:13:10
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"America's national security is under threat!" That's a statement quite often heard when Washington intends to curb imports of such goods as steel, aluminum, or vehicles and auto parts, and when American policymakers decide to turn against foreign investors or scare off Chinese students and academics.

[Photo: IC]

[Photo: IC]

According to international consensus, national security usually means that a state's power, sovereignty, unity and territoria integrity, the well-being of its people, its sustainable economic and social development, and other important national interests are free from danger and external threats. It has clear connotations and boundaries. But today, the concept has been abused by the world's most powerful state as a tool to promote trade protectionism and for it to maintain its hegemony.

Between the 1980s and the early 2000s, the United States launched 14 Section 232 investigations to determine the effect of imports on its national security. At the time, it was uncommon for the United States to impose trade sanctions in the name of national security: Only two of the 14 cases triggered punitive measures. But since 2017, Washington seems to have become increasingly insecure, leading policymakers to deem imported iron and steel products, aluminum, vehicles and auto parts, investments, talent, enterprises, and advanced technologies all threats to its national security. Many Section 232 investigations have been launched. There was even a national emergency declared last month over an alleged threat against American technology caused by China's leading tech firm Huawei. This poses the question: Who can threaten America's national security, given that it's number one in the world in terms of military, technological, and economic strength?

The answer is: nobody. The national security of the United States is not at risk. Rather, some figures in Washington are using claims about national security as a weapon to attack America's trading partners and advance their America First agenda. Washington has been incapable of coping with the great changes that have taken place in recent years, including the rise of emerging markets and developing countries, and national security has become an excuse it leans on when it wants to act on its suspicions about the economic development and technological progress of other countries.

[Photo: IC]

[Photo: IC]

The European Union has looked at America's actions and decided that national security was simply used as a cover to engage in economic protectionism. And the American Institute for International Steel and two of its member companies filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of International Trade, alleging that the Section 232 investigation used to impose additional tariffs on iron and steel imports violates the constitution. During an oral debate, a judge asked a lawyer defending the administration's position whether there is any product the president doesn't have the power to restrict imports on using national security grounds: "Could he, say, put a tariff on peanut butter?"

The frequent misuse of national security by the United States not only hurts its trading partners; it also impacts the international trading system and trust in the global marketplace. This harms the interests of the United States, and may even impair Washington's judgement should it find itself confronted by a real threat. And that is perhaps the biggest threat of all to America's national security.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.